• Bar + pf
  • Baritone
  • 14 min
  • Emily Dickinson
  • English

Programme Note

Swift Partitions (1998)
for baritone and piano                                      

1. An Everywhere of Silver
2. I started Early - took my Dog
3. Though the great Waters sleep,
4. The waters chased him as he fled,
5. Water makes many Beds
6. Three times - we parted - Breath - and I -
7. Fortitude incarnate
8. My River runs to thee - 

Completed in June 1998, Swift Partitions was commissioned by the Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams, with funds from the Arts Council of Wales and premiered with pianist Nigel Foster, at St Mary's Church Warwick, on the 9th July 1998.  

Swift Partitions was my second vocal work based around the work of the American poet, Emily Dickinson, and while An Amherst Bestiary (1997) took a sequence of Dickinson animal poems as its starting point, Swift Partitions sets a series of eight short poems, dealing with the subject of the sea. The work is not narrative, but instead alternates philosophical meditations on the sea (Songs 1, 3, 5 & 8) with more immediate "encounters": a surreal walk with the sea, (Song 2), two near drownings (Songs 4 & 5) and a river's almost erotic desire to join the ocean (Song 8). These encounters are predominantly fast and restless in character and set in relief by the slower meditations, which deploy a more fragmented and rhetorical musical style. The work's title is taken from Song 7 - a fitting image for a cycle whose songs are essentially short and elusive in character.

Julian Philips, 2023